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Boxed in

Local developer David Box says he has no option but to pursue razing the historic Gold Dome building.

Tim Farley March 20th, 2013

As owner of the historic Gold Dome in Oklahoma City, David Box finds himself in an untenable position.

Box, a developer and owner of The Greens Country Club, said he has has few alternatives in connection with the sacred dome, which long ago lost its glistening golden look of yesteryear.

His top options include the sale of the property or its demolition. Box is losing $10,000 a month on the old, vacant bank building since the last tenants cleared out at the end of December.

To make matters worse, the iconic building, located at N.W. 23rd Street and Classen Boulevard, is deed-restricted from being used as a bank, which was its original purpose when built in 1958.

The Gold Dome’s return to the headlines last week came when Box tried to secure a demolition permit, only to discover the application would require approval by the Oklahoma City Urban Design Commission.

Since then, Box said he has been sifting through every possibility to make the landmark a financial success. He’s even talked to local experts about tax credits in connection with historic places. The Gold Dome was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Catherine Montgomery, an architect who specializes in historic-preservation tax-credit projects, said if Box chose to renovate the building, he could recoup 40 percent of the cost through federal and state tax credits.

Among a litany of other items, improvements to the round anodized aluminum roof would cost about $2.5 million. That figure could go higher depending how the structure is used.

So far, none of the ideas to turn the Gold Dome around have panned out. Suggestions have included restaurants, a nightclub and office space.

“I’ve had about every restaurant person in town look at it, and they won’t touch it,” Box said. “I’m willing to listen to anyone who has an idea. There’s not a lot of interest in terms of people spending money on it. There’s no return.”

Box purchased the building for $800,000 at a foreclosure auction last September after the previous owner, Dr. Irene Lam, stopped making payments.

At that time, Box said he did not have plans to tear it down, but he also acknowledged he didn’t have any plans to develop the property.

“I want options,” he said. “But the building is losing so much money. The heat and air [conditioning] is shot, and the roof needs to be repaired, but we’re still trying to come up with a plan. I’m not a guy who tears things down.”

Box’s track record would indicate that. He’s been instrumental in the redevelopment of Campus Corner in Norman while also purchasing and developing city properties in Bricktown and along Automobile Alley.

Photo: Shannon Cornman
Money aside
Preservation and history buffs want the Gold Dome kept intact.

Lisa Chronister, an OKC architect, was among a group who fought the dome’s proposed razing a decade ago when Bank One, then the owner, filed for its own demolition permit.

“I cannot believe we are here again, 10 years later,” she said. “Everyone I know is still committed to saving it. I have to think there is some system of metrics that make it viable. Without question, it is one of the most unique buildings in Oklahoma City with its strange, quirky, mid-century look.”

Chronister doesn’t want to see a repeat of the old urban-renewal days when historic buildings were torn down in the name of modernization.

“We’ve torn down too much that we regret, so we have to take the long view,” she said. “Nobody wants to see vacant buildings, but I’m not ready to say it’s a done deal.”

Neither is Box, who has until Tuesday to file a demolition application. On April 24, the Urban Design Commission would consider the request.

Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the dome should be preserved because of its unique design, location and the shared memories people have of the building.

“People grew up seeing that, and it reminds us of home. It’s part of our personality as a community,” he said. “That area was the main connection for people in the 1950s and 1960s. People look at that building and say, ‘There’s nothing else like it.’”

The Gold Dome was designed by Robert B. Roloff of the Oklahoma architecture firm Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson and Roloff in collaboration with Kaiser Aluminum Corp. The building was based on the geodesic design by inventor, architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller.

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03.21.2013 at 03:50 Reply

Ohhhh, this is a good one.  On one hand you have the nostalgia and sentiment that comes from such an iconic historical building, but on the other hand, preserving it could involve those devious liberal handouts; federal tax credits.  I bet this conundrum is going to keep "libertarian conservative" Mike Brake from a much deserved nap time.  Hopefully he wasn't eating his tapioca while reading this, otherwise he probably just spit it all over his free (read socialist) copy of the Gazette.


03.22.2013 at 12:07 Reply

That's two private entities that have found it to be cost prohibitive to renovate and save.  Bob and Lisa here need to buy it themselves or give it up.  It's been established it's too expensive to renovate so tear down the eyseore already.  Move on.


03.25.2013 at 08:49 Reply

We have a hearty conversation going on about this issue on the Facebook page "Save OKC's Historic Gold Dome."


03.25.2013 at 05:12 Reply

Eyesore? That's one of the most interesting buildings anywhere! It shouldn't have to apologize for not looking like every newly constructed strip mall in Edmond. Sounds like you need to travel more. 


I'm confused. I know for a fact that there was a tenant in the old Prohibition Room (restaurant) space that had been remodeling and getting ready to open for months and was finally ready to open when the place went up for auction. Why wasn't it allowed to stay and pay rent? "No one will touch the place"... Has it even been listed as having space available or had so much as a "For Lease" sign out front? Something is not adding up here.

It was a functional/functioning building with working business going on under its roof before Mr. Box bought it and now all of a sudden it's not? Even if any of this sounded reasonable, we would first have to believe that this highly successful and experienced businessman went into this with eyes shut. No research was done, no inspections were done, no estimates of costs were done... He just said here's $800,000 without ANY plan? 

All of this sounds like a bait and switch to me. 


03.26.2013 at 03:35

It's not unheard of for an investor to buy a property at an auction only to find out the previous tenant gutted the whole place right down to the copper pipes and wire.
Ever watch those house flipping shows?  Sometimes the investor buys a turd.  Although I think that building is ugly, I'd want to rip it down too.  Seems like Mr. Box didn't realize that the historical nature of the building would have prevented him from doing what he wanted.


03.25.2013 at 05:21 Reply

...not to mention the fact that he now wants to demo it and still has no plan... Riiiiggghhhht.